By PATRICK TALU
THE Gabsgaba-Jaure people of Rigo district in Central province have been cautioned not to be lured by foreign ecotourism operators along the Ghost Mountain Track linking Oro and Central provinces.
Ben Magaru, chairman of Rigo Product Development and Rigo Century Tours, last week, warned that there were two foreign tourism companies operating on the track luring locals to act as guides and potters without any tracking authority in place to regulate the industry.
Mr Magaru told The National after learning that the two tourism operators names (withheld) were allegedly luring locals into trekking industry in the absence of a regulated mechanism in terms of direct employment, spin-off benefits, and benefit sharing agreement.
“People must not rush into things when looking at cash flow in the absence of a tracking regulatory authority in Rigo,” Mr Magaru.
“They must know what benefit they will receive from getting into ecotourism.
“There are other ways they can make money from ecotourism, instead of just being potters and carriers,” he said
Mr Magaru said under the new Ghost Mountain trekking industry, an authority just like the Kokoda Tracking Authority, he was working on a mechanism for the local communities along the track to benefit.
“I have decided to bring in tourism in the rural area where the locals can sustain themselves as there are no other ways they can benefit,” Mr Magaru said.
“I am not stopping trek operators. They can go ahead, but they must do so in compliance and working with the Rigo district eco-tourism development committee which is sanctioned by local MP Ano Pala,” he said.
The Ghost Mountain trekking industry is World War Two trek used by the US-led Allied Forces during WWII and passes through the famous battle ground of Buna in Oro.
According to Mr Magaru, the trek has been forgotten for 70 years and recently been exposed for ecotourism purposes.